Edmonton Tourist: Government House

Sitting high above the North Saskatchewan river is Government House. This park is also home to the form Royal Alberta Museum or RAM. I may be wrong, but I think the old RAM still houses museum archives. I hope one day it becomes an indigenous peoples museum. The architecture of the building is stunning. It would be a shame to let it fall into ruin.

I came here a few weeks ago when the sky’s were filled with smoke from the American fires. Edmonton had very few smoke filled days this summer. Likely because everyone stayed home (for the most part) this year. The government house grounds are home to a significant collection of public art. The Captain and I strolled around the grounds to take it all in. It had been a while since we visited here. Often its in the winter to look at the Christmas lights.

There was a wedding in front of Government House, probably no more than 10 people and two dogs. All wearing masks. It was a lovely setting. I know it isn’t a ‘trend’ to have smaller weddings right now, but I like it. The big splash of a wedding doesn’t appeal to me. I like a nice simple affair with a handful of meaningful friends and family. I parked far away from the wedding party so they could have their privacy and I could have minimal people contact.

At the bottom of the parking lot is a path that leads to the valley and Government House Park. There is a great tobogan run and a fantastic running path that takes you west along the river bend and then south. The leaves were perfection. This was the peak day for fall.

We then headed towards the totem that sits on the south east corner.

I don’t know what it is, but I love totem poles. I like to really take my time with each face and study the carver’s ability.

This one is soulful and feels sad.

Cap soon became restless so we headed towards RAM to look at the public art. One section of the building has stone carvings that represent petroglyphs. In all my years coming here, I had never noticed these before.

We wandered around the building to look at the other pieces of art, but honestly none were as beautiful as the building itself.

This is my favourite piece on property.

We wandered around the back of the building and Cap heard the howl of a coyote so we stopped to listen. I thought he would join in but he was not okay with the coyote and thought we should leave.

Soon we were back at Government House. It is haunted so I always look for paranormal activity in the windows. I saw a clerk once in the window as a kid. The building was closed and it was night. The hair on my arms stood on end. It was spooky. I don’t like going in that building but I take visitors on tours there. Apparently there is a ghost story about a clerk who locks men in one of the rooms. The men who work in the building avoid going into that room. The ghost doesn’t bother the women at all.

The medallion in the centre is a wild rose. I would love to take an imprint of that and turn it into a tatecanvas bag or something.

We stopped this building. I am not sure what it is but it is beautiful to look at.

If you enjoy public art, I recommend a visit to Government House grounds. Wander around and take in the views. Whatever you decided to do for fun, keep your distance, wear a mask and stay healthy friends.

Edmonton Tourist: University of Alberta

It is the time of year when students are heading back to school and participating in a once in a lifetime pandemic. Life is strange and unfamiliar right now. Both my adult children are attending classes but not at their campus of choice. They are attending classes via Teams, Zoom and eClass. This is how I finished my degree, so I know a little bit about what they are going through. It is hard to make connections, participate in group work, and borrow books from the library. My work from home situation is similar. It is hard to work on group projects, chat and become inspired and get those creative juices flowing. However, it is what it is and we are making the most of it.

My daughter is annoyed that she is paying buckets of money and she doesn’t even get to enjoy the best part of University, Fall Semester on the Arts Quad. I have to agree. It is the best part about about being a U of A student. Certainly not the windowless classrooms, but walking across campus to get to different classes before winter sets in.

I left the house last week for the first time since forever or blursday, I can’t remember. I hadn’t been on campus since last fall. My MRI doesn’t count because I was in and out of the Kaye without going anywhere but my car. I was doing some architectural research for a book I am working on and drove to the University of Alberta Campus and brought my pal Captain. We could have stayed in the car but I needed to walk.

It felt normal. I miss normal.

I parked at Rutherford House Provincial Historic site. For those of you not in the know, Alexander Rutherford was Alberta’s first Premier. His other lesser home is found in the valley at Fort Edmonton Park. I have toured this house a lot. I used to imagine living here when I was a kid. I loved the opulence of the grand staircase and the idea of having a maid to cook meals. My hubs does that now and it is as decadent as you think it might be. We walked around the gardens taking bad photos.

The gardens are well maintained and lovely for being so late in the season.

We headed south towards the Common where the international students reside as well as other student housing. I love that the campus sits on the south bank of the North Saskachewan River.

The older homes mixed with the newer architecture is normal to me and I love the character it adds to Garneau neighbourhood. The big elm trees that hang over the streets is so lovely and calming. I ask myself every time I am here, WHY DO I NOT LIVE HERE?

We stopped and admired gardens and buildings then found ourselves in front of Convocation Hall, the old Arts Building. The entire arts quad is lovely. A friend of mind said it reminds him of Harvard. Harvard is 383 years old, U of A is 112 years old but it feels stately and peacful.

There is a little brook between Convocation Hall and Hub. I love to sit here and just think or meditate. I have had many great ideas here and the best part is I haven’t shared this spot with anyone so it isn’t tainted with memories. It is just my spot to visit alone.

My parents used to take my brother and I here for walks in the evening. Likely my dad had to drop off a paper or we were picking him up from class. I don’t remember, but I loved running around the big trees and visiting the Turtle or as the sign post says, Tory Building.

So many great memories here for me. I hope my kids have equally great ones too. Get out and explore new neighbourhoods, Edmonton is a lovely city.

Edmonton Tourist: Wm. Hawrelak Park

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I was cleaning up in here and noticed I didn’t even write about Hawrelak Park. It could be because I rarely come here. But that is a lie. I just don’t think of coming here to use this space like a park or a walking place. It may because I was always here and didn’t need to explore it when I did my river valley park series. Whatever the reason for the omission, I am here now.

This place is probably the busiest of all the valley parks. It hosts festivals, races and large enough to always find a picnic spot in the summer. As a kid, we used to picnic here on a Sunday afternoon with every other Edmontontonian. Then we stopped. The World Triathlon Games are held here, I come for the Freewill Shakespear Festival every summer and I walk through this park to get to somewhere else. My health is back on track and I am working towards longer distances again. Not running, but definitely walking longer distances. This place made sense to come to because two loops = 5km. Plus the added benefit of plowed roads. The paths are packed and easily traversed.

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Cap and I parked in the southwest corner of the park and picked up the trail along the river. It was later in the day and the sun was low in the sky. To be fair, this is Edmonton in January, the sun is always low in the sky.

The trail quickly entered the woods.

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We saw lots of cross country skiers and runners along this path, with a few dogs and their humans. This trail leads towards the off-leash that runs along the North Saskatchewan River all the way to Keilor Lookout. We were not going that far.

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When we made it as far as the bridge, we crossed over to check out the views. The bridge was pack with more dogs and their humans coming from the Buena Vista Dog Park over by the Valley Zoo. We didn’t go that far either. Just to the end of the bridge and back.

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After our return trip, we walked towards the park centre. Did you know there is a skating rink on the lawn not just the pond? I had no idea! This is particularly good because the pond was not ready for people yet. Too risky.

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The best rink, in my opinion, is over at Victoria Park, especially at night with the pathways lit up with Dylan Toymakers’ beautiful lanterns. But, this place has ample parking and is lit at night too. Just not with the special lanterns.

We headed towards the north end of the park and past by the playground and many picnic sites that sat empty today. That also surprised me. Lots of people come for a fire and a chance to roast a hot dog or marshmallow. We kept moving forward and walked along the Ice Castle. I went once but don’t feel the need to go again. It is very beautiful at night but this attraction is pricey. Plus I have issues with the amount of water it uses. However, it is pretty.

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WE walked along the north end of the pond where the triathlon athletes enter the water. It looks different without all the geese on the lawn.

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You can see the amphitheatre in the back and to the left. The new Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues is building something back there to commemorate 100 years in Edmonton. Construction had begun.

Cap and I passed some incredibly large trees on our walk. I have looked at these trees for so many years, they always seemed the same, but today, they were huge. I couldn’t put my arms around this guy.

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We jumped back onto the path and passed copious amounts of feeds for both squirrels and birds.

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Soon we were back at my car with the sun lighting up the downtown.

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People don’t think of winter as a time to be active outdoors, but in Edmonton, if you only went out in the spring and summer, have your life is gone in a blink. This park is filled with all-season activities.

Get out and enjoy your city people!

 

Edmonton Tourist: Wabamun Lake Provincial Park

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It was -1C and my first thought was, “I should go for a walk in the woods with Cap”. My second thought was, “Stop looking at Facebook memories.” In 2017 the overnight low was -42C with a windchill of -50C. The house was warm-ish… but the walls and floors were cold. Closing curtains add that extra insulation barrier. This memory sealed the deal. I was going to a provincial park with my boy. I checked the weather at Wabamum and at Miquelon, Wabamum won by 2 degrees.

I hadn’t been to Wabamun Lake Provincial Park since my son was 5 maybe 6. We came to the beach and he loved the train trestle that crossed the water. As a train enthusiast, this was his favourite beach.

I hung out at this lake from the age of 18 to 26. My ex-husband’s family had a cottage at Seba Beach, the west side of the lake and I was a camp counsellor at YoWochAs near Fallis, the Northside of the lake. The provincial park is located on the east side. I learned to paddle and sail on this lake. I also learned to water ski and tried scuba diving. I prefer paddling in the canoe and exploring the freshwater creeks that feed into this lake. I remember listening to a friend telling me he was going to sail to the provincial park and step the mast so he could camp. I had no idea why he needed to do that until he explained about the train trestle. Since that day, every time I see the trestle, I think fondly of him.

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Cap and I arrived to find everything closed. The campground was barricaded, the beach access was closed. The only place open was Group Camp D, or at least the parking lot to group D was open. I parked there along with three other vehicles.

There was more snow here than I anticipated. If I am going to continue to do these types of explorations, I think I need to invest in a pair of snowshoes. The last time I wore snowshoes they looked like this:

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The snow was deep and I think I could benefit from the stability. My sled dog would appreciate them because then going off-trail wouldn’t be such a big deal for me. Alternatively, perhaps a sled would be better! He pulls me up slippery slopes as it is.

From the parking lot, we discovered an ungroomed trail. People had used it for snowshoeing and skiing. Lots of dog tracks so Cap had a lot of investigating to do.

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The trail took us along the northwest shore of the lake. We found lots of animal trails, moose, hare and coyote. The coyote makes Cap skittish and reluctant to go first. He wasn’t as confident as the other trips we take.

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We had to stop a lot, sniff the air and snow and listen for predators. Waiting patiently for him, I noticed the smell of coal. I had forgotten the area smelled like this. They still strip mine south of the lake and Keephills and Sundance plants are still in operation – as a general FYI, Edmonton still gets its electricity from coal. It isn’t as clean as you think. Do any of you remember the smell of coal and straw burning to thaw the ground for construction crews? That is was it smelled like. It was a familiar smell of my youth.

We kept walking thinking I would find beach access, but no luck.

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I also expected to see ice fishing on the lake.  When I came out here in the late ’80s, the lake was covered in fishing tents. Side note: I went into Wabamun and found all the ice fishing tents off the main pier. They just don’t do it the bay because of limited access to the water.

The sun is still low in the sky for a mid-afternoon day, it casts long shadows and sparkles up the snow.

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We walked about 1.5km before Cap stopped and would not go further. Obviously, there were coyotes ahead. So we turned around and he just about pulled my arm off trying to get to the car.

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This is a park that is slammed with campers and beachgoers during the summer season. But if you are a cross-country skier or snowshoe enthusiast, I recommend the quiet peaceful winter to visit. I didn’t come across any picnic sites, but I know there is some closer to the day-use area. Wabamun is about an hour west of Edmonton on hwy 16. It’s also worth checking out Canada’s largest dragonfly located in town because how often can you see big things like this?

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Get out and explore!

Edmonton Tourist: Ten Years of Travel

As we move into a brand new decade, I am reflecting on this decade. The last ten years of blogging have pushed me into unexpected places. I love my city but I knew there were places I hadn’t really been to. The more I visited the nooks and crannies of Edmonton, the more I knew I wanted to explore other places the same way. Becoming the Edmonton Tourist had me looking for those hidden gems that are free to explore and left me with delight at new knowledge of other places. My parents gave me the gift of travel and I have been all over the world. After being the Edmonton Tourist, I think I would explore those places differently if I had the chance to go back. As we move into 2020, I reflected on some of the best things I have seen in ten years. I eagerly look forward to exploring more because, to me, there is no better thing to be than a tourist.

2010: Vimy Ridge. I went to Europe with my famjam. We landed in Paris and explored France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany during a nine-day period – it may have been ten days, IDK, it was A LOT. We had a plan but the best part of the trip was the unexpected happenstance of stumbling upon Vimy Ridge. It was a complete accident that changed my life. The art, the unexploded shells, the trenches and the grave markers of boys who were not much older than my own shook me to my core. Thanks Vimy.

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2011: Banff National Park. My son and I went on a camping trip to Banff. Just the two of us. We created memories that we still laugh about. I learned he is more like me than I realized and we both love Johnsons Canyon. It was a pivotal moment for us. It is one of the greatest vacations of all time.  Thanks Banff.Johnston's Canyon - all paths deserve to be walked on

2012: Regina. I learned from my trip with my son that one on one time with your child is important. The next year my daughter and I went to visit my godmother in Regina. This was an epic trip filled with big things like the world’s largest coffee pot and Al Capone’s secret caves of Moose Jaw. But we also went to Dog River. A fictional town on the prairie where they filmed Corner Gas. It was such fun I cannot begin to describe it. Small town Saskatchewan was an unexpected great trip. Thanks Regina.IMG_1648

2013: Calgary. If you know anything about Alberta, you understand the love/hate relationship between Calgary and Edmonton. A bucket list item was to run a race with my dad. The fat girl whose grade seven gym teacher called her lard ass. Whose ex-boyfriend said fat made him lose his chubby. Proving to myself that I could run and run with my dad was a big deal to me. It was his birthday and we took my son to Calgary for the Calgary Marathon weekend. We ran the 10km. The Hubs and my daughter surprised me at the finish line. It was an epic day. I learned that Calgary puts on one of the best races I had ever attended….better than a Disney Race… The crowds were amazing and the sites were beautiful. Exploring a different city on foot was such a gift. Thanks, Calgary.

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Me and Dadeo at the finish

2014: Hawaii. For my son’s graduation, he got to pick a trip. He chose Hawaii. We went to Aulani, Disney’s resort on the west side of Oahu. We had been before when my son was 7 months old. He learned to crawl in Hawaii. I didn’t want to leave the resort. I am not such a big hot beach fan, I love the cold beaches of Tofino, but this place was magical. I loved it. I learned that I am impervious to sunscreen and can listen to the ocean for the rest of my life. The four of us explored every inch of the resort and spent time on top of volcanoes, looking at war memorials, learning about seafood and pineapple allergies but most of all just loved exploring with each other. Thanks Hawaii.

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2015: Big Sur. I was crew for my friend who ran from San Fransico to Anaheim (500 miles) to raise money and awareness for Spinal Muscular Atrophy. It was the loneliest trip of my life, but as with all times of loneliness, the greatest learnings come from that. It was my own pilgrimage of sorts. It was the greatest growth for me. It was the beginning of the end. I shed 500lbs of dead weight and began the long road to creating boundaries. I sat on a rock at Devil’s Slide and watched a pod of humpback whales swim by. It was a spiritual experience and the greatest learning of my life. This was the place where regrets were born, accepted and learned from. I returned to this spot on the way back home with my hubs. I cried for days. I cried all the way home to Canada. The great purge of emotion happened on this trip and I learned who I could trust, and who was loyal. I am grateful to my Hubs for taking such good care of me when I couldn’t care for myself. This place feels sacred. I long to go back. Thanks Big Sur.11921645_1125074180854471_1929081778109239340_n

2016: Vancouver. The year my daughter graduated, her chosen trip was to Vancouver. It is no secret that Vancouver is my favourite city on the planet. She was toying with the idea of going to school here. We did a different kind of trip than we normally do. We visited film sets. Heck, we even crashed a set at the Delta dog park during the filming of the Flash. We drove right on set with the confidence of the film crew. It was only later they asked us who were. We were lost and how the heck do we get out of here? Good times. I learned things about Vancouver I never knew before. What a great place to explore. Thanks Vancouver.

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2017: Tofino. The Hubs and I came here on our honeymoon way back in the early 90’s. In 2017 the Hubs just retired and I was about to start my new career. It had been a tough summer and I was ready for change. He surprised me with a trip to the Wickaninnish Inn on Chesterman Beach in Tofino. I walked straight into the ocean and stood there for an hour or two and just let the waves wash over me and heal me. I cried and let out all kinds of pain, trauma and RELIEF. I was reborn on that beach. It’s corny but true. A baptism of sorts. This remains the greatest vacation of all time. ALL-TIME! It only would have been better by having my kids there. I want them both to get married there and I want to move there. I never want to leave Tofino or Ucluelet again. When I win the lottery Friday night, Saturday morning I am packing and moving there. At least I will have a seasonal home there and a place here in Edmonton because I love Edmonton too. The ocean, the rainforest, the raven and the wolves are something special to me. I love this place. Thanks Tofino.

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2018: Vancouver Island. I loved 2017 so much, I needed to go back. This time I was healthier and could do more. 2017 was what my daughter refers to as the time I died. I didn’t but I was close to it. My kidneys stopped working and let me just say, I don’t recommend organ failure. It was a long road back, by the time I made it back to the west coast, I was ready to explore every nook and cranny. We hiked rainforest trails, explored the lighthouse, ate amazing things, went to a carving shed to meet an artist, met a gal who moved from Edmonton in the ’70s and never went back. This time we went in a boat to explore the ocean as well. We saw eagles, sea lions, harbour seals and orcas. ORCAS! Damn, I love you Tofino.

2019: Jasper. Secret Season is the best. My daughter’s 21 birthday was spent at Disneyland. It took up most of my money. The hubs and I wanted a vacation so we booked off-season at the Jasper Park Lodge and saw things I hadn’t seen before. Winter in Jasper before ski season is THE BEST EVER! We saw wildlife and zero people, except for that couple from New York City who was shocked I was wearing a sweater and no parka. Winter in Alberta is different than in New York. What I think is warm is apparently FREEZING in NYC. Big babies… Seriously though, make the trip for the wildlife and the scenery and the quiet because it is worth every second. Thanks Jasper.

img_4557 2020: The Unknown. I think I will go to Kamloops for a spiritual conference at the Akashic Ranch in June. But I might go to Sedona and explore vortexes or Santa Fe for the Balloon Festival. I might wander down to Waterton National Park or take my kids back to Aulani, maybe we will go to Disneyland and visit Galaxy’s Edge or just stay at home. I don’t know. But I do know I will be exploring more provincial parks, hanging out in my river valley and poking around new restaurants and maybe take in a festival or two. 2010-2019 showed me a lot of amazing things. I am positive the next 10 years will show me more.

Get out and explore, you won’t regret it.

Edmonton Tourist: Jasper Park Lodge

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Last week I told you about my little getaway during secret season at Jasper National Park. We decided to make it a resort getaway, so we booked two nights at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. This is the place where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex stayed for their honeymoon. The Jasper Park Lodge opened as a tent city in 1915 then eventually was taken over by Canadian Pacific Railway and became one of the great railway hotels of Canada. If you have stayed at any of the other Fairmonts in Canada, you know what I mean. It is high end and exquisite. I had been here before for a quilt workshop and my hubs and I came for a weekend getaway 25 years ago, but I had not been here since.

I booked through the AMA website and found a deal, and I mean DEAL for $200 a night. Worth noting – this is not a sponsored post. That is a typical night stay in town in a regular hotel. Offseason midweek makes a big difference plus being an AMA member sure helps. It’s worth it to keep your eye on deals.

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We checked in late on a Wednesday afternoon. Earlier that morning the hotel texted to welcome me and asked why I was coming. I let them know it was a nice getaway for us since we hadn’t been in 25 years. They asked if there was anything they could do for me, and I said no. I did consider bringing Cap, with a pet fee of $50 per night, I thought against it. If my kids were with us then I would have brought my pal. When we checked in we were immediately upgraded to a cottage on the lake. Here was the view from the living room – that’s right I said living room.

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Lac Beauvert was frozen without snow so in a few weeks there will be some good skating going on! The room was large with a king bed and the sofa was a pull-out. Down the hall were a coffee bar and fridge. There was a large double-wide closet with robes, slippers, and an umbrella.

The first thing we did was take a walk along the lake. To go around the lake takes about 45 minutes, we made it about halfway before it became too dark to walk in the woods in wolf country. The smell of pine in the air is an instant stress reliever for me. Honestly, I don’t know what I prefer more, the mountains or the ocean. The high-end cottages, where Royalty stays, were all decked out with Christmas lights. They were so pretty through the trees.

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The big cottage sleeps ten (I think) and has a full kitchen, fireplace, study, dining room and three bathrooms. Everyone gets a bedroom. I want to book this one year for my family at Christmas. The hotel will put up a tree and we can either have Christmas dinner catered in the cottage or we can cook it. One day… its a bucket list item for sure. This is the Royal one. Very secluded and quiet on the point.

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You walk down from the cottage and can sit on the cute bench, I guessed the royals sat here at least once.

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We walked back to our cottage and I thought about how lovely this was. Very few people were around.

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We made a cup of tea and I pulled out my knitting. It was quiet and peaceful, a perfect ending to the day. Eventually, we made our way to the main lodge for a bite to eat. Since we ate a big lunch at Jasper Brewing Company, it was late before we decided on cocktails and nibblies. We walked the 5 minutes to the lodge and went up to the Emerald Lounge. I looked at the menu and thought hard about creating my own Old Fashion. Look at the choices!

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In the end, after all the big talk of wanting a cocktail, I had a glass of shiraz and the hubs had a Jasper Ale. We ordered the charcuterie board, it had interesting things on there like elk sausage and other game meats, cheeses fruit and nuts. We decided to share dessert and landed on the rhubarb sorbet and lemon mascarpone mousse. It was so good, we ordered another the next night.

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We poked around the lodge before heading back to our room. Christmas in November happened the week before so the decorations were up. After hearing all about it, I put that on my bucket list for another year. Perhaps I can convince my mom to postpone her trip to Europe next year and I will take her for a treat.

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The gingerbread house filled the lobby with the aroma of cinnamon and ginger. I am considering making one for my office and keeping it up all year round.

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I only need 440 lbs of flour. Shouldn’t be too much of a problem, I can make it in batches.

Stanley the house labrador dog was off duty when we stopped by. I didn’t get to see him at all over the stay, he was either walking or resting.

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The walk back to the cottage was surprisingly bright. The full moon lit up the mountain range.

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This was the same shot the next morning.

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We woke up early, and by early I mean we stumbled in for breakfast about 9:00 am. and ate at Orso Trattoria. The only problem with the secret season is the limited availability for dining options. However, the breakfast was good with a view that was only rivalled by my breakfast view at Wickaninnish in Tofino.

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You are looking at Edith Cavell. That tiny dot on top of the mountain is the Jasper Sky Tram. You can go up there and see for days (but only in the summer season).

After our day of site seeing, we came back to this:

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I guess they thought 25 years meant anniversary? It was so thoughtful and delightful! The raspberry macaron was the best one. They were super fresh. The champagne went in my bag for New Years!

We headed back to the Emerald lounge for snackies, we didn’t have the strength to drive into Jasper  – buy that I mean, I didn’t feel like calling for the car because there wasn’t anywhere to self-park, they do it for you. I loved the ritual of walking to the lodge for meals. Especially in the full moonlight.

The next morning we repeated the same breakfast plan. Each meal we took the time to get to know the servers. Most of the staff come from Austalia or Ontario. The Alberta kids think the Rockies are old hat, so they travel farther west to surf and work at the Wick. The staff live on the property and are amazed at their view every morning. I regret not coming to Jasper after college. I thought about it but never did. In my next life, I am totally doing that!

We took a walk around the property before we headed back to pack.

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The pool is open all year round. It’s heated obviously and you swim through a tunnel from the indoor pool. It was 32F that morning with one brave dude swimming and taking in the view.  Its fine until your hair gets wet. We continued walking towards the boathouse.img_4513

If you are looking for peace, I recommend a few days here. Jasper National Park is a world-class destination, rich in history and wildlife. If you have been before, you know what I mean. If you have never been, come. If you see me poking around, come say hi.

 

 

Edmonton Tourist: Jasper National Park

Have you heard of the Secret Season? I had, but I had no idea there was a special name for it! Of course, I am referring to the ‘offseason’ in the Rocky Mountains. It is the time after fall but before ski season and Christmas break.

I went the second week of November to Jasper National Park. I had been to Banff during the secret season and its still a little on the crowded side. Lots of tourists out looking at cool things. But Jasper? This as my first time. If you have ever visited Jasper National park in peak season, May to October, then you know how busy it can get.

We arrived early afternoon on Wednesday. The plan was to stop at Jasper Brewing Company for lunch, walk around downtown and head off to the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge to check-in and have dinner. Finding parking is usually a complicated experience so you take the first spot you find at the far east of town and walk several blocks to the far west side of town.

The lack of people almost tricked us into parking by the totem pole. Almost. I suggested we drive closer to the brewery. We found four spots IN FRONT OF THE BREWERY! FOUR people, FOUR!

We went inside and one other couple was there. We didn’t have to wait for a table. While we were there one couple and a group of 8 came in. That was it. Lunch was delicious as always and we each had the winter ale because…winter and we like ale. But I know from experience the 150 IPA is fab and so is Jasper the Bear Ale, which is my usual. When I say ‘usual’ I mean the last time I had beer was three years ago. I gave it up, and all things carbonated. I treated myself on this occasion because ale is just so good with the fried chicken sandwich with siracha aioli.

After lunch, we toured around town, which was empty and largely closed. A lot of shops and restaurants were closed for the season.  We popped into Parks Canada’s information building and bought a friends of parks t-shirt. All proceeds go to supporting Parks Canada. My favourite vacation spots in the world are thanks to Parks Canada, so I support where I can.

Across the street from Parks Canada is the totem pole, so I stopped in the middle of the road and took a photo. No one tried to run me over, I stood there for a good long while just marvelling at the spaciousness of an empty park. It was absolute heaven!

The totem still looks good and is easier to see without people standing in front of it. Then we sauntered back to the west side of town and drove to the hotel where we had booked a few nights. I will go into greater detail of the resort in a future post. But I will say this, Jasper Park Lodge is lovely. We had dinner at the lodge and poked around the grounds before calling it a day.

The plan for the next day was to head down the Banff Jasper Parkway and see what we can see. At breakfast, we overheard people talking about the big horn sheep heard at Medicine Lake and thought maybe we should go there first since we are already on the south side of the Athabasca River.

We hopped in the car and drove the short distance to Maligne road. We normally stop at the canyon first but we wanted to see the herd before they moved on. It didn’t take long for the dry snow-free road to becoming a snow-packed but sanded winter driving road. The higher we climbed in elevation the more snow we encountered.

The vistas were phenomenal. I come up here frequently in the summer but the mountains really show off their craggy detail in the winter when covered in snow. It was spectacular. There was a forest fire through the pass a few years ago so the mountains are on display for all to see. When we arrived at Medicine Lake, there was the herd, down on the frozen lake. They look like dots but it really shows the scope of Annunciation peak.

Here they are in the zoom version.

Then we came across a moose sow and her calves. I have only been this close to a moose on my street. Never in a National Park. But that’s Canada for you.

The air was crisper than at the lower elevations. Jasper townsite is 1060 metres (3477 feet), the climb up to Medicine lake to us to an elevation of 1670 metres (5479 feet). It put things in perspective, Vancouver’s elevation is 0 because its at sea level and Edmonton is at 2300 feet. It was 9C in town but -5C at the higher elevations. We met a couple from New York State sitting in their car at Maligne Lake. They had boots, snow pants, down-filled jackets big mittens and a hat. I wore my converse, jeans and a sweater. They marvelled at the lack of winter clothing we had on. It felt like spring to us, but we are smart winter travellers and know that anything could happen. In the car were winter boots, jackets, mitts, hats scarves, blankets plus an emergency kit with hand warmers, booster cables, emergency blankets and all that other important stuff you need to keep warm in your car until help arrives. Happily – none of that was needed and we chatted for a while with the American tourists.

We made our way back down to the townsite and ate lunch at the Other Paw, a sister bakery to the Bear Paw. Both are delicious. The Other Paw, is more of a deli and we had fantastic sandwiches and cookies.

Bellies satisfied, we went south down the parkway to Sunwapta Falls. This is where I was not dressed for the conditions. It was too slick to hike down the icy pathway towards the falls. I did not want to be a statistic, so we took photos of the totems and drove back towards Athabasca Falls.

Again, not dressed for the conditions, but we drove over the bridge and took some lovely shots.

Then hopped back into the car and headed north to Pyramid Lake. I didn’t take a single photo. It was nice just to sit and look. Being present on this part of the journey was wonderful. It was interesting to me that Patricia Lake was not frozen, yet 200 meters away, Pyramid was. I wondered f there was an underground spring or heat source that kept the water open. During WWII, they tested ice hull aircraft carriers and one is at the bottom of this lake. Not that the open water had anything to do with it, but it may be why they chose that lake to test it.

Driving back to the room, we saw a mule ear buck just sauntering along Mildred Lake. The amount of wildlife we saw on this trip was the opposite of the amount of people we saw. Elk, deer, big horn and eagles were out in full show. Come during the secret season for a quiet and restful few days. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

Edmonton Tourist: Pembina River Provincial Park

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When I woke up this morning (Saturday, October 12) it was sunny and lovely out. It isn’t going to be this way for long because the nights are getting colder. I anticipate snow sooner than later. With this in mind, I figured The Captian and I needed to head west to see what we could see. I googled Provincial Parks thinking I would go to Wabamum but Pembina River popped up.

First of all, I had no idea Pembina was a provincial park. Secondly, I hadn’t been there since 1988 when I would drop off a truck and trailer for the young paddlers upstream learning how to negotiate river eddies and snags while at summer camp. The truck was their ticket back to YoWoChaS, a YWCA camp located at Fallis on the shores of Wabamum Lake, where they would get a meal of fried chicken and bannock as their reward.

All I could think about was the river and how much fun it was at camp. I loved those people and that was a very special time for me. I learned a lifetime of things that stuck with me. Obviously, I needed to share that with Cap. I packed water and checked Waze. I live 109 km away. Totally doable. Had I planned my day better, I could have done two provincial parks, but I will get to Wabamum another day.

The Yellowhead Highway 16, is rough. Full of ruts and bumps until Spruce Grove. After that it was fine. It was the kind of day I thought I would like to keep going until Jasper but I needed to be home so Chatterbox could use my car for her volunteer gig.

I remembered the turnoff to Entwistle and easily found my way down into the river valley. I thought I remembered an old single-lane bridge that spanned the river so you could cross over to Evansburg, but I could be wrong. Maybe it was replaced? At any rate, I remembered the valley and the steep high banks of the river. I found the sign and pulled into the Day-Use area.

There were signs pointing the way to the beach.

Beach?

People who live in Ontario or near the ocean would laugh. The ‘beach’ is the shore with a bit of sand and rock. It’s lovely, but not what one would think of when you say ‘beach’.

Cap and I parked in the vast parking lot, I noticed there is an overflow lot. This is a swimming river because it is slow-moving and shallow. This river is popular with people who bring tubes or rafts and put in upstream and drift along. The perspective for Alberta from any river is amazing. If you get the chance to explore river valleys via the water, do it.

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Near where we parked is a playground and picnic shelter. There were signs that gave direction to the beach but you could see it from the parking lot, so it was obvious. There were signs saying no dogs on the beach…but… it isn’t summer and Cap can’t read.

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There is a parking lot by Entwistle 3km away and you can hike in if you look at the trails from P to P. It is hilly but I think it would be a great hike in the early summer or early fall. Cap and I parked and took the stairs to the picnic area near the beach.

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The hill we drove down was quite high, plus there are stairs and steep hills to get closer to the water. The picnic spots are fantastic, this should be a place I bring my famjam for a picnic.

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We kept walking upstream through the trees to get the to river. I didn’t feel steady enough to to take the short cut to the river.

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This was an easy gentle slope to the river. The first thing I noticed was the lack of leaves on the trees. The ground was abundant with crunchy leaves. The orange trees are tamaracks, they turn colour in the fall and drop their needles before winter. There are quite a few conifers still holding onto their needles plus the green lodgepole pines are straight and narrow still showing off their green needles that last all year long.

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We made it to the river bank and I remembered how easy it was to pull the canoe out from here. I think this must be where the rafters pull out too. The sign is easy to miss though, so first-timers pay attention once you pass under the bridge.  The big RIVER EXIT sign isn’t really big enough and is quite far from the water.

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Cap and I went further upstream to the park boundary.

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It is essentially at the bridge.

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Bridges that are accessible by water in Alberta have some sort of stamp or art on the structure below. Most are wild roses or the Alberta crest, but this one had a paddler dude. I love these signs along the waterways. I loved being on the river. I think I was a voyageur in a past life. The Pembina meets up with the Athabasca River which will take you to Lake Athabasca but there were forts along the way, so it was obviously used by voyageurs.

We turned around and headed downstream to the bend where the campground is located. This campground is gorgeous. I highly recommend staying here if for nothing else but the view.

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We climbed up the bank instead of heading back to the gently sloping path, Cap pulled me out because he is the best dog ever. Once back in the car, we made our way up the hill to the park entrance and stopped to look at the four monoliths.

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Part of the Canadian Northern Railway bridge. Ugly but historic.

I investigated the campground a bit more and learned camp spots are $33 a night and most have hook-ups. They aren’t all treed but they do have great views of the river valley.

Pembina River Provincial Park is about an hour west of Edmonton on Highway 16. Come in the summer for a float and I am sure a lot of people will join you, or come in the fall and be the only one walking on the shores. The choice is yours.

Just get out and explore your neighbourhood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

November

October went by in a blink and I did participate and experience some cool things like looking at street art in St. Albert. Tell me this isn’t the coolest bench you have ever seen?

I checked out more Provincial Parks and went to Pembina River with my pal Cap.

I had warm cookies and milk at Confections Cake Company  – the best cookies I ever had that I didn’t bake.

I went to Soul Speak in St. Albert and met wonderful people, joined a meditation circle and won a book! YAY, I love winning things!

Now I am looking to November and thinking about the possibilities as winter begins to set it. I am not wanting to feel like I am housebound so I have made some plans and am going to see The Waitress at the Jubilee, but I also hope to get to see the Six before it goes to Broadway.  I am looking forward to exploring Edmonton as the mood hits me. As usual, I have listed some fun free things to do in Edmonton and the surrounding area as well as keep you posted on the festivals that are happening around our city.

  1. Gotta Minute film festival. November 4-10, 2019 Explore Edmonton hasn’t listed this but you should take part anyways. One minute silent shorts will be shown on LRT platforms and the Stanley Milner Library. This is a great opportunity for me to get to the new library and see it’s weirdness in person. You can watch the films via the web page but in person is better for the true experience. Plus – free festivals ARE THE BEST!
  2. All is Bright! November 16, 6:00 PM Helen Nolan Park will have a light ceremony all apart of the All is Bright Festival down at 124 street. I have never been to this festival but I have plans this year to attend. Plus I have a feeling we are in for a mild winter – so it will feel great to be outside! Or at least fingers crossed about the milder winter.
  3. Winter Whyte Light Up, Nove 30, 4:00- 7:00 at Dr. Wilbert McIntyre Park
    8331 104 St NW, Edmonton. Lights, Farmers MArket and other seasonal offerings happening courtesy of the Old Strathcona Business Association.
  4. The Downtown City market is now open at the old GWG building. Located on 97 street.

Festivals

November is packed with festivals to participate in, the problem is finding time to do them all. Not all of them are free and actually, not very many are free. Here is a quick list of happenings around our community:

  1. Festival of Trees 
  2. Edmonton Rocky Mountain Food and Wine Festival
  3. All is Bright Festival
  4. Festival of Carols
  5. Conservatory Fall Music Festival
  6. Dickens Fest
  7. Zoominescence: A Festival of Light at the Valley Zoo
  8. St. Albert Snowflake Festival
  9. Enchanted Forest Fort Saskatchewan 
  10. Festival of Trees Sherwood Park
  11. Festival of Trees Leduc
  12. Christmas in Central Park Spruce Grove

 

Get out and explore your community Edmonton!